Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Question by Zena Wynn

“Will you have my baby?”

Gail Henderson abruptly began to loudly choke on her iced tea. All around her conversations ceased as they became the center of attention. As she coughed and wheezed with tears streaming down her eyes, she squinted at her best friend Crystal who was sitting there, calm as you please, as though she hadn’t just dropped what amounted to a nuclear bomb into the conversation.

They were seated at a table in Golden Corral, sharing lunch after a hectic morning of Christmas shopping, which was only a few weeks away. The place was packed as usual. The other diners slowly turned their attention back to their own business when Gail glared at them for being nosey.

“I’ve given this a lot of thought. You know I can’t have children. If you had one for me, I would have the best of both worlds—a child from the man I love more than anything—and my best friend, who is more like a sister to me,” her friend continued.
Crystal had been pregnant several times. Each one ended in miscarriage, the last almost taking her life. After that, her husband Rashid put his foot down. No more pregnancies. Crystal told Gail that he’d threatened to get a vasectomy before he’d allow her to risk her life in another pregnancy attempt, and she’d reluctantly complied with his decree. Gail thought Crystal had resigned herself to her barren state, but apparently not.

“What do you mean, have a baby for you?” she cautiously asked as she blotted the tears from her eyes and face.

“I want you to be my surrogate. I’ve been looking into it. Rashid would be its father and we’d use your eggs. Once the baby was born, I’d adopt it, making me its mother and as my best friend, you’d naturally be its godmother.” Crystal looked at her with a hopeful expression on her face.

“Isn’t this kind of drastic? I thought you were considering adoption,” Gail asked a bit desperately.

“I did, but that’s not for me. I want a child of my own. At the very least, I want a child fathered by Rashid. You know how important family is to him. Do you really think he’d be satisfied with an adopted child?”

Rashid Al Jabbar was as Arabic as his name. Because of his heritage, family and children meant a great deal to him. “Crystal, you know that’s not fair to Rashid. He loves you. If you wanted to adopt, he would go along with it just because it made you happy.”

A brilliant smile lit Crystal’s face. “Yes, he does love me, doesn’t he? That’s why I want this so much. I need to give him the child he so desperately desires.

Hopefully, it will be a son to carry on his family name. Gail, please. You’re my best friend in the world. There’s no one else I would trust to do this for me.”

“Crystal, look at us. We look nothing alike. Don’t you at least want someone who is similar in appearance?” Crystal was a short, curvy, natural blonde with pretty brown eyes. Gail was tall and slender with skin the color of nutmeg. Not only did they not look alike, they were from two different ethnic groups. Crystal was Caucasian while Gail was African-American.

“Pshh. You know I don’t care about things like that. Besides, who would know? Rashid is almost as dark as you.” It was true. Rashid’s complexion was the dark, olive-brown of a man from the Middle East, though he was as American as she.
Gail could feel herself caving. It’s not that she didn’t want to help her friend. She just had a bad feeling about this, and over the years, she’d learned to trust her instincts. She took in Crystal’s pleading expression. “Have you discussed this with Rashid?” It was a last ditch effort to avoid the inevitable. She’d never been able to say no to Crystal and Crystal knew it.

Crystal leaned forward, determination showing in her eyes. “He’ll agree. Don’t worry. How could he not? This is a win-win situation.”

Win-win for whom? Gail wondered. Then she sighed, knowing Crystal was right about Rashid. Crystal had him wrapped around her little pinky. “I’m not saying yes, but I’m not saying no. Let me look into it. Do a little research. This is too big of a decision to make on the spur of the moment.”

Crystal squealed, causing other diners to turn and stare—again. She got up from her seat and ran around to hug Gail. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Gail returned her hug but inwardly a feeling a dread was growing. She was going to say yes. She always did but she sensed this time, the results would be disastrous.

* * * *

As promised, Gail spent the next few weeks researching Artificial Insemination and Surrogate Mothers. She had a much better understanding of what she’d be getting herself into if she was crazy enough to agree to Crystal’s scheme.

The problem was she and Crystal had a long history together, going all the way back to junior high school when they’d first met in Mr. Peterson’s third period gym class. They’d clicked, despite their obvious differences. Gail was the studious one, always with a book in her hands. She’d been on the debate team and student council, and even spent time working on the student newspaper. Crystal was a social butterfly who coasted through life on her looks and charm. She’d been a cheerleader and won prom queen two years straight in high school. She’d done just enough studying to keep her grades high enough to cheer without being placed on academic suspension.

Somehow they’d maintained their friendship, despite attending two different colleges, several hours away from each other. It was happenstance that they both ended up relocating to the same city after graduation. Crystal married first, having met Rashid in college. Gail met and married Jason a couple of years later. The two couples had interacted closely, mainly due to the close friendship of the two women.

Crystal rejoiced with her when Gail discovered she was pregnant, and cried with her three years later when she’d lost both her husband and their son, Marcus, in a fatal car accident. That was two years ago. She and Crystal had supported each other through every crisis, sharing the laughter and the tears. Crystal had always been there for Gail in her time of need. How could she do any less for Crystal now?

* * * *

Gail traveled home to Alabama to spend Christmas with her parents, still no closer to a decision. The holidays were always rough. She couldn’t help thinking about Jason and Marcus, and what Christmas morning would have been like if they were still living. Having family around helped her get through the season without depression overwhelming her.

Christmas day was boisterous as usual. All of her brothers managed to make it home with their wives, the last one arriving early that morning just in time to exchange gifts. Later that evening, when everyone finally left, her father, Frank, pulled her into his study. “So, you want to tell me what’s bothering you, baby girl? You’ve been mighty quiet all day.”

She debated for all of a second the wisdom of saying anything, but her father had always been her confidant. “Crystal asked me to be a surrogate for her and Rashid, using my eggs.”

“Well, now…” Her father settled his large, burly frame back into the recliner and stroked his chin. “That’s quite a favor to be asking. Which way you leaning?”
Gail settled on the floor next to him and laid her head on his knee. He immediately began stroking her hair. “I don’t know. I feel for her, Dad, wanting a child so desperately, but I’m not sure this is the way. My gut tells me doing this would be a terrible mistake.”

“But…?”

“We’ve been friends for so long. She’s always been there for me. Can I honestly deny her?” Gail looked up at him.

Her father brushed her bang off of her forehead. “True, you two go way back, but sometimes, you have to trust your instincts and look out for number one. You’ve already lost one child. Can you handle losing two?”

“But this baby wouldn’t really be mine,” she protested.

“Blood will tell. It will grow in your body and have your DNA. And what about your mother and I? You weren’t the only one affected by the loss of Marcus. He was our first, and only, grandchild. Now you’re considering giving away another.”

She hadn’t considered that. Gail thought for a minute. “So you’re saying I shouldn’t do this?”

“I’m saying it takes a strong woman to give away her own flesh and blood. Maybe your
love for Crystal will carry you through. I don’t know, but think very carefully before committing to do this. Some decisions, once made, can’t be undone.”

His words stayed with her a long time.